Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy 31st (or 124th) Birthday Augusta Savage!

Augusta Savage, a Leap Year baby, was one of the most influential figures in the Harlem Renaissance era.
I found more information on Augusta Savage ever believed possible. The extent of insatiable knowledge still has yet to fulfill craving to learn extent of what can be true satisfaction. A void still sits, waiting.
Schomburg Center research stretched out my lids and sockets. Filled my heart and mind with impressive events making up Augusta's tragic history. Apparently not only are most of Augusta's sculptures housed in the center's distinguished collection, she has kept a scrapbook-- a scrapbook! I cannot wait to see her writings, her rare, candid photographs. To think, all of this time, Google, the brick wall end. It's beyond usual scoping, beyond traditional art history books always filled with missing anecdotes one doesn't realize is needed.
I created an installation that opened today called Augusta Savage's 31st (or 124th Who's Really Counting) Birthday Party and runs to next Wednesday.  It is purely conceptual celebration comprised of typewritten biographical text on drawing paper, Pan-African ribbon colors attached to miniature pale and brown clothespins, and small red balloons.
Wonderfully engaging, gratifying discussions with surprise visitors and fellow friends who bore seeds growing in thought process this afternoon. Thank you to everyone who came and will come inside the party to learn about Augusta Savage, right on this final day of Black History Month and on the eve of Women's History Month.....

It was very quiet vigil as students and faculty ushered into the space, reading lines and blocks of text.
The ribbon at times hid text, making viewers interact if inkling curiosity became too great.
Awed joy upon witnessing individuals move along the timeline, finishing the unfinished narrative.

After two straight years of putting up with my constant writing desires, the borrowed typewriter friend decided to take immediate hiatus right at the tale end of Augusta's life. The plan is to purchase new ink cartridge and write more and more. Augusta's story is far from finished here.
Lift Every Voice and Sing, otherwise known as the National Black Anthem and the bust of James Weldon Johnson, writer of the song written as poetry, inspired Augusta and was in turn inspired by her.
Top 7 Augusta Savage New Discoveries:

1.) Augusta is accepted over 142 other girls at Cooper Union. She completes the four-year program in three years.
2.) She received a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship to study in France for two years and then received a grant by the Carnegie Foundation to travel to Belgium and Germany for an additional eight months.
3.) She studied at The Académie de la Grande Chaumière, showcased at the Salon d'Automne, two Salons, and often received high honorable praises.
4.) She has shown her work alongside Henry Ossawa Tanner and Meta Warrick Fuller twice.
5.) August Rodin, Solon Borglum (Art Academy of Cincinnati alum!), and Charles Despiau (to whom she studied with in France) admired her talent.
6.) Having always had a natural inclination to teach art, she started her own school, Savage School of Arts and Crafts in Harlem, with her own funds. Eventually Carnegie Foundation and WPA aide in her endeavors. She cared a lot about her students, getting them into shows and exhibits, especially abstract painters Norman Lewis and Gwendolyn Knight (soon-to-be Jacob Lawrence's wife), and incredible draftsman, Ernest Crichlow.
7.) She is the first black woman to be elected in the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.

What an amazing human, an excellent artist and a profoundly progressive spirit!
Augusta Savage is the definition of a true heroine. Gone but never ever forgotten. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fabricated Fantasy Romanticism Shadowed By Disturbing Historical Trauma

Experimenting with remarkable deception and manipulating history is part of Fabiola Jean-Louis's cultivated master plan.
At Harlem School for the Arts, Fabiola Jean-Louis's Rewriting History: paper gowns and photographs is a breathtaking, suspenseful portrait survey. Surreal concept of Black Girl Magic poignantly address the artist's multifaceted heritage rooted in Afro-Carribean ancestry and puts past, present, and future on notice. Tongue in cheek with severe lashings in pretty bold packaging, rectangular gold frames contain impressive digitized prints that mirror hyper realistic historical paintings. Elaborately staged settings entail dark and moody environments. Palettes are as dramatic as noteworthy Romanticist/Rococo era painters Thomas Gainsborough and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. There are no regal Marie Antoinettes or noble Queen Victorias implanted here. With curly coifs, braided updos, and pearled locs, women of color are dressed in fetching period costume, presented as beautiful, desirable ladies as important as positioned objects in their possession. Some images purposely interlace grisly accounts with interior frames and lieu of adorned flowers to lessen the merciless blow.

Madame Beauvoir's Painting, 24" x 31," archival pigment print, 2016.
Jean-Louis confronts the birth of white supremacy language, discloses the challenges and stigmas of colorism, and the centuries-long psychological damage of racial discrimination.
Madame Beavoir's Painting, masked in a heavy arsenal of froufrou fashion, initiates unsettling dialogue, obscuring idyllic fantasy and blatant reality in shocking orchestration. A woman draped in rich crinkled fabric and opulent jewelry stands before a framed image of a violently whipped figure, red particles deliberately splattered in small, intended doses. It is that of a slave. Slavery, though abolished in 1865, still remains an integral part of history, a bruise that can never be faded blemish. This beaten figure could have been this woman's ancestor, a great great great relative forever immortalized as indentured servant, as scientific beastly analysis.

Carrie Mae Weems altered version a similar archive photograph version in her From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried series. Chromogenic color print with sand-blasted text on glass.
 Madame Leroy, Conquistador, and Madame Beauvoir's Painting grace the walls with layered visual meaning.
Jean-Louis's unique portraiture-- truly provocative surrealism in advanced photography-- embarks on vulnerable paths impossible to bear away- both physically and emotionally. Artificial gold gilded frames and fanciful distinguished costumes are plot devices meant to allow viewer to become suckered in, become enthralled in materialistic grandness of ostentatious spectacle only to be delivered abrasive punch.
For example, Madame Leroy is a theatrical vision. Gloomy background enhances radiance of her skin, of her gold gown and its whispering rustles and bustles, and glint of luxurious jewels at her ear, wrist, and chest. She stares out into the viewer's vicinity, languidly fixated while poised in demurely classic gesture, her elegantly high box braided coiffure nearly reaching top of picture plane.

Madame Leroy, 24" x 31," archival pigment print, 2016.
Violin of the Dead, 22" x 29," archival pigment print, 2016.
The Color Purple, 22" x 29," archival pigment print, 2016.
Rest in Piece, 22" x 29," archival pigment print, 2016.
Rest in Piece goes beyond being diagnosed as a close up shot. This zooming exemplary portrait of Madame Leroy's dress, playing on painterly trompe l'oeil illusion tactics, amplifies old horrors stemming from ugly racism still refusing to die. Among threaded bead work and torn text bodice repeating words "historical," "Europe," and "geography," nestled inside ornate silver frame, propped against serene blue sky, hanging on a tree with budded pink rosebuds is a lynched figure with RIP grave nearby nestled in a thicket of wiry ground. It tells our tale well. To be taken under false sheltering wings of Eurocentric aesthetics yet not forgetting place of the brown body in the extent of Eurocentric gaze defines Rest in Piece's representation, the core of its meaning.
In black history, despite evidence of aggravated murder and malice, the mental and physical harm of the brown body, the gauntlet is rarely thrown. Lost victims and the grieving family of those victims are guaranteed no belief in a system that was never designed to protect them.
There serves no justice, no peace. Only piece. And that piece is knowledge of being wronged.

Coffee Dress, newsprint w/coffee stain, 5" x 7," 2015 in front of Passing, 40" x 60," archival pigment print, 2016.
Each paper costume that these magnificent characters have worn are displayed. Unbelievably layered craftsmanship, sewn with commendable skill and extreme dedication to detail, genuinely mimic fabrics down its thin, wispy mannerisms. To wear paper, a delicate, fragile thing that one can write narrative, is a deeply embedded metaphor, an allegorical context of the entire exhibit.

Louis iii, 4" x 5," pattern paper painted with acrylic, 2015 (bottom).
Jean-Louis's must experience, altering turbulent makeup of not-so-ancient history, has been extended to April 1, 2016. Please go if able.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Brunch In Brooklyn: A Pictorial Afternoon

I first visited Champs last summer. It was worth coming back to!
In Brooklyn, two vegan hotspots are the best places to enjoy brunch fare.
Champs, is an amazing place to engorge, especially when monstrously starving. The brunch menu contained enticing animal free delights such as chicken and waffles, sausage gravy and biscuits, the very popular Tofu Benedict, and red velvet pancakes. Plus the baked goods sitting in front, all plump and protected in clear glass cookie jars presented hunger with wicked challenge.
I stayed my ground and ordered the breakfast enchiladas and a side of potatoes.

Oh boy! This was one fulfilling stomach pleaser all right.
Beautiful light and crisp tortilla overwhelmed with strategic zig zagged sour cream, mild salsa, melted cheese, a scooped chunk of guacamole on top and an interior stuffed in tofu scramble and vegan sausage goodness.
Scones looked mighty pleasing. Muffins appeared fluffy and moist.
Yet I craved doughnuts from one of the best places on earth.  Thankfully it took only a two minute walk around the corner for incredible dessert.

Food Network award winning Dun-Well Doughnuts was the perfect sweet treat location.
In both regular sized and miniature, flavors like lavender-almond, jelly filled, French Toast, and maple were seductively laid out in the two tier glass case. They were so beautiful. Like irresistible mouth-watering paintings trapped inside of classic wood framed charm, begging to be eaten. I almost swooned, looking at each crafted doughnut fighting over for affectionate attention. It is very, very tough to pick one. Let alone three.
I selected the glaze for its honest replication of a childhood treat. I absolutely love their version. This has been my third visit (yes, only 3 times) and I always get the glaze. Clear authentic icing crushes together at first bite, its sweet flavor both delicately crunchy and moist. Some may consider glazed a plain creation. Believe me, Dun-Well Doughnuts make this flavor so good, the blissfully inclined aficionado doesn't miss Krispy Kreme at all.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies were a surprise hit.
My last year as a participant of PAFA's Open Studio Night was splendid, special even!
A huge, grand thank you to everyone who came out last night to see the work of my incredible peers (some whom I will eternally miss) and I. Very kind, very sincere people visited my temporary second home, Studio Number 867,  a soiled, fermenting ground where my work has been watered and blossoming sweet yet humble fruit. I appreciated those that lingered and listened to me discuss vibrant painted ideas surrounding them as well as hopes for the work's future. Some were interested in the writing elements, taking time reading my prose, wondering if visual and literary language would ever come to be married together like they so obviously desire. I treasured raised questions, feared flashing paparazzi bulbs, and championed on homemade cookie grabs. This has been one heck of an amazing thrill ride experience. 
About last night:  Philly Aids Thrift Cat Dress ($5) and Mod Cloth Fox Shoes.
Before I came to my studio (just a little late), I created dark chocolate chunk cookies with one of the bars originally purchased as a personal Valentine's Day treat. Remember the Theo Chocolate? Well, I figured why not share happiness, considering how joyous Friday night fatefully promised. I thought about this corny movie, Simply Irresistible, where the lead character makes the most sumptuously appetizing food and her emotions can be tasted, felt by those eating these creations. I didn't cry in the cookie batter. My pride and joy filtered through-- rather magically. I'm always happy to hear a compliment over cookies and a painting and sentimental writing. Why not have this happen simultaneously?
Needless to say, soft, moist, dark chocolate decadence was all gone before Open Studio Night struck it's nine o'clock ending chimes. Yes!
Again, thank you to the visitors, some dear friends, and delightful faculty for not only taking cookies and a peek inside 867, but for also making beautiful memories to reflect back on.

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies Ingredients and Preparation

3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup almond milk (or any other dairy free alternative)
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 dark chocolate bar, chopped (used Theo 70% Dark)
1/2 cup pecans (any other nut would do)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Blend almond milk, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.
Mix dry ingredients with wet.
Add apple cider vinegar.

Chopping chocolate action.
I used every spare little scrap for these cookies.
Baking is an action packed process.
Stir in chocolate chunks and pecans. Scoop out batter in tablespoons onto a non-stick ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. The baking time lessens gradually after each batch.
Cool cookies first before stacking them up for storage.
Cookies are warm and ready to go!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

By The Atomic 29 Tipped Arrow of Cupid: The Art of Mario Moore

Together, 54" x 69," oil on canvas, 2015.
Love is pure, sacrificial, untouchable, fragile.
Mario Moore's "Refracted Light" had pulled back gossamer curtains, unveiling a past standing vibrantly on familial foundation of love. Moore captures fruitful upbringing in mesmerizing detail. Each harmonizing brushstroke shares angst-driven, soul-stirring, heart-throbbing, undeniable compassion filtered through enchanted realism. Rapt attention draws focal concentration to traditional academic techniques holding hands with postmodern issues facing black bodies today. By painting powerful portraits on copper, atomic number 29 otherwise symbolized as Cu, places marginalization on a mighty scintillating pedestal.

Together close up.
In a prejudiced society so quick to illustrate black people as violent individuals especially those murdered out of racism, Moore's compositions showcase convincing opposition, the realistic positives in a harrowing narrative relying on stout dignity and ethereal poignancy. This compelling maneuver divulges humanistic layering, rendering figures in a deliberately sympathetic nature. Riveting physical urgency in Together drives a sense of emotional strength and unwavering grace. The clutching embrace between man and woman in front of a mirror is evocative, suspenseful. Narrative within narrative entails a close intimate bond yet opens up an unmasked sorrow coyly hinted in the woman's dewy eyes.

Study of a Growing Seed, 10" x 10," oil on panel, 2015.
Study of a Growing Seed, Study of a Grip, and Love reflect on different stages of life's memories, allowing storytelling hands to relay present time with framed photographs that had documented important historical events-- birth, high school dance (perhaps Prom or Homecoming), and romance. 

Study of a Grip, 12" x 12," oil on panel, 2015.

Love, 10" x 10," oil on panel, 2015.
Queen Mother Helen Moore,  24" x 36," oil on copper, 2015.
Refracted means to make a ray of light change direction when entering different angle.
Four women bring the exhibit its endearing name. To place them on metallic surfaces enriches their valuable importance. From their hairstyles, to their facial features, to their strong fingertips, each woman is individually distinguished, each manner specifically defined. Three women hold photographs of men in their hands-- some are larger parts escaping from other paintings, forming an interesting repetitive dialogue. Queen Mother Helen Moore holds two black men graduating and the prom/high school photograph from Study of a Grip. Whereas Yeah G Ma Don't Play is a larger role than that of Love.
Herstory, however, is a portrait leaving behind smallest amount of copper background. The woman doesn't hold photographs. Instead, she has an arm crossing her chest and a defiant hand on her cheek. Eyes house sassy attitude and upturned mouth carries wry amusement. A note beside her figure asks, "fear courses through the blood of ignorance but who gives us salvation through hope?"

Yeah G Ma Don't Play, 24" x 36," oil on copper, 2015.
Herstory, 34" x 28," oil on copper, 2015.
"Fear courses through the blood of ignorance but who gives us salvation through hope?"
Mom Says I'm Her Sun, 36" x 60," oil on copper, 2015.
Mom Says I'm Her Sun is a wonderfully composed painting demonstrating the artist's sophisticated ability of having copper background offset golden highlighted planes of his mother's three-dimensionally carved face. Like James Abbot Whistler, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and others before him, Moore depicted maternity in a rather dignified way. Moore's female parent is cast in pensive radiance, staring directly into viewer's soul, holding picture of a graduating young child with pride, with a seeming means to offer him, offer him up to the world where all glitters are not gold, or in this special case-- copper. From dedicated commitment to making her fabrics appear soft and touchable to the warmth of her subdue face, this beautifully crafted art was the truest star, the guiding light of the whole exhibit.

Mom Says I'm Her Sun close up I.
Mom Says I'm Her Sun close up II.
Mom Says I'm Her Sun close up III.
Moore's tenderly heartfelt exhibit is gone now from miniscule stage/ gallery space of Harlem School for the Arts. Gratifying presence lingers in mind and spirit, surging forth vibrant images dismantling pigeonholed stereotypes. Perhaps the black women depicted are single mothers honored to have had handsome, educated sons.  Or maybe they are holding onto their child's youth, pining away for the days of old, when they could protect their boys from society's perceptual evil. Either way, Moore most importantly conveys love, the kind of love provided in the cusp of a strong, vital family. It's the kind of love inherited, a genuine love that cannot be triggered by fictional arrows.
And love inherently ties these beautifully expressive works together.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Know Your Chocolate's Soul & Valentine's/Single Awareness Day Suggestions

Make February 14th (and beyond) special by purchasing fair trade, slave free chocolate. Here's Food Empowerment Project's Official Chocolate List.
The vegan chocolate industry is another eye-opening horror to glare at. Very disappointed, very heartbroken in discovering that most of my favorites lay in the Not Recommended-- Enjoy Life Foods, Chocolove, Go Max Go, Clif Bar.....
Key points in F.E.P.'s listing:

To help people buy chocolate that does not involve the enslavement of human (children or adults) or non-human animals (such as cows and goats). 
To make sure consumers are informed about where companies stand on the issue. 
To encourage consumers to contact the companies and let them know how they feel!
I look forward to doing my part and stop eating/supporting bad companies. New chocolates it is.
However, I wish to be of bigger aide-- move to West Africa or attempt growing cacao beans in Philadelphia.  I will look further into seeing what more can be done-- campaigning and whatnot. I may love chocolate to death, but not at the cost of young lives. These beautiful children are likely deceived into believing farming is their only purpose. And most never get to eat the chocolate. *sighs* 
Other less saddened news, it is another year of Single Womanhood, another year of red and pink filling every store. My Sunday plans include watching Girlfriends, soaking medjool dates for truffles, making a fabulous dinner, mud mask facial treatment and deep conditioning my hair. It's going to be awesome-- or as my friends say "super lit."
I have included romantic ideas for two (or one) that are still memorably delicious.
But the best thing of all is knowing that my chocolate bar dessert saved for tomorrow hasn't been sourced from a child slavery area.

Top Entree & Top Dessert Ideas for Valentine's/Single Awareness Day

Roasted Tofu With Blueberry Fig Sauce And Butternut Squash

Be super duper fancy with roasted tofu topped with a sweet reduction blueberry-fig sauce. Best with candlelight and light jazz.

 Roasted Tomato & Mozzarella Pizza Hearts

Nothing says cute like a heart shaped dish-- a pizza made from scratch that is! Roasted tomatoes and bubbly vegan cheese wins atop of a delicious, hearty crust.
Baked Cashew Cheese Penne, Spinach, & Almond Puree

A creative effort of using both cashews and almonds in a single pasta dish that impressed me. Plus, one of the rare occasions I used spinach over broccoli. *gasps*

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauced Bananas

Chocolate is the ultimate sign of devotion, especially when involving dipped fruit. Strawberries and cherries may be other people's treat menus, but peeled and quartered bananas glistening in hot chocolate satisfaction would bring anyone's heart to a melting boil.

Lemon Raspberry Bread

This inviting sweet bread just screams romantic with its vanilla dripped icing and luscious red raspberries the color of rosy lips begging for a goodnight kiss.
Vanilla Banana Chai Tea Ice Cream

Blending a frozen banana with Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Soy Chai Tea Latte would be a great idea. But I went the other way around, steeping tea and freezing the tea before blending with a frozen banana. That's true love and dedication.